Monkey business? Pensioner behind botched Christ fresco raises £43,000 for charity as her artwork becomes major tourist attraction

The 19th Century piece by Elias Garcia Martinez was re-Christened "Ecco Mono" (Behold the Monkey) after Cecilia Gimenez's unsolicited 'restoration' last year

Matilda Battersby
Wednesday 14 August 2013 10:33 BST
Cecilia Giménez's changes to the fresco in Borja inspired online artists to imitate her
Cecilia Giménez's changes to the fresco in Borja inspired online artists to imitate her (Reuters)

Spanish pensioner Cecilia Gimenez’s well-intentioned, but botched attempts to restore a 19th-century fresco of Jesus at her local church has proven surprisingly lucrative.

The “Ecce Homo” (Behold the Man) was re-christened “Ecce Mono” (Behold the Monkey) after the pensioner artist’s efforts rendered the image virtually unrecognisable, and drew ridicule from across the world.

But it has become a major tourist attraction raising much-needed funds for the local community.

Since news of the botched fresco made headlines a year ago the church has drawn more than 40,000 visitors and raised £43,000 (€50,000) for a local charity.

Mrs Gimenez, 81, and the local council are to share profits from merchandise featuring the image – and the pensioner is also due to have other artworks exhibited.

The fresco, by Elias Garcia Martinez at the Santuario de Misericodia church in the north-eastern town of Borja, originally depicted Christ with a crown of thorns.

But Mrs Gimenez’s “restoration” has transformed it beyond recognition, with child-like brushstrokes removing any subtlety from the clothing and thick layers of red and brown paint covering several key details.

Mrs Gimenez came under fire from art lovers last August. She said at the time: “Everyone who came into the church could see me as I was painting," Jimenez said. "I didn't do anything secretly. The priest knew. How could I do something like this without permission?"

The damage was discovered because Martinez’s granddaughter made a donation to the Centro de Estudios Borjanos which holds an archive of local religious artwork.

Staff then went to check on the 'Ecco Homo' at the church near Zaragoza, only to find it dramatically altered.

Officials say it is not possible to restore the painting's original look

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